Fortitude Budget

More help for students, seniors to access digital resources

A "Seniors Go Digital" movement will be launched to support senior citizens to adopt digital channels and equip them with the digital skills to do so. ST PHOTO: JOEL CHAN
A "Seniors Go Digital" movement will be launched to support senior citizens to adopt digital channels and equip them with the digital skills to do so. ST PHOTO: JOEL CHAN

More help will be given to students and seniors to enable them to access digital resources, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday.

He noted that in the ongoing stay-home period, families have been making fuller use of digital technology for home-based learning, entertainment, ordering meals and keeping in touch with their friends and family members.

The value of having access to digital technology is clear, he said in his fourth Budget speech this year, adding that it has enabled people to connect with and support one another safely during the corona-virus pandemic.

"In a post-Covid world, having all on board digital channels will open up exciting new possibilities for different members of the community to engage with and support each other," Mr Heng, who is also the Finance Minister, told Parliament.

"Going forward, digital inclusion should be an important way for us to strengthen social resilience," he said.

"Regardless of age or resources, all members of our society should have access to digital resources, with no one left behind."

Mr Heng said the Ministry of Education will "accelerate the timeline" for all secondary school students to own a digital learning device as part of its longer-term plans to support digital literacy for all students.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung will announce details of the accelerated timeline when they are ready, he added.

In March, Mr Ong announced during the debate on his ministry's budget that every secondary school student would own a digital learning device, which can be subsidised using Edusave funds, by 2028.

He said that all students would get a $200 Edusave top-up to support the purchase and those from lower-income households would get further subsidies so they would not have to pay any of the cost out-of-pocket.

Students have already gone through about four weeks of home-based learning during the circuit breaker period, which ends next week, but some students from lower-income families may not have digital access at home, Mr Heng said yesterday.

In March, Mr Ong announced during the debate on his ministry's budget that every secondary school student would own a digital learning device, which can be subsidised using Edusave funds, by 2028. He said all students would get a $200 Edusave top-up to support the purchase and those from lower-income households would get further subsidies so they would not have to pay any of the cost out-of-pocket.

He said the Education Ministry has loaned out more than 22,000 computing devices and Internet dongles to these students for them to benefit from full home-based learning and continue to connect with their teachers and friends.

For senior citizens, Mr Heng said the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) will launch a "Seniors Go Digital" movement to support them to adopt digital channels and equip them with the digital skills to do so.

He said this will enable seniors to stay in contact with their families and friends, and help care teams and volunteers to reach out to seniors more effectively.

The move will require support from family, friends and the wider community, Mr Heng said.

A "Digital Ambassadors" movement will also be launched to rally the community and volunteers to help seniors acquire digital skills, he added.

"For seniors from lower-income households who wish to learn but are unable to afford the devices, we will also provide them with financial support," he said.

Mr Heng encouraged young people with digital skills, as well as corporate companies, to step forward and be involved in the programme.

The Minister for Communications and Information and the IMDA will announce more details at a later date, he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2020, with the headline 'More help for students, seniors to access digital resources'. Print Edition | Subscribe